Stray Neighbour’s owners, Andrew Chew (of the nearby Chew Burgers) and Ben and Dan Stray, didn’t want to open just another bar serving burgers and ‘parmas. The trio could have settled on one of the many stops between pub grub and fine dining. Instead, it bypassed most of them, with help from head chef Romina Gagliardi, who last worked at the Reymonds’ Bistro Gitan as sous-chef.
Her background is evident in the Euro-leaning menu, which starts with natural oysters and leek and gruyere croquettes. Mains include chicken with tarragon, sweet corn and sherry, and crispy pork belly with white-bean puree. The protein arrives solo, bounded only by graceful rings of jus. You may go for the optional sides, but it’s a better idea to hold out for crème brûlée, doughnuts or citrus granita.
Despite the food’s considered presentation, the venue’s atmosphere pulls things back to earth. There’s a pool table tucked cleverly in a large alcove, and the booths alongside it make the space feel like a casual American diner. It even gets rowdy at times.
There are 12 beer taps, pouring everything from Carlton Draught (why alienate anyone?) to Moon Dog’s surprisingly sessionable Redskin-flavoured stout. This independent attitude is mirrored in the wine list, which includes young, small-batch producers such as Dormilona in Margaret River and Jericho in McClaren Vale.